Thursday, November 27, 2014

Food news for Thanksgiving 2014


It's Thanksgiving, which means, like last year and the year before it's time for me to reprint all the food, farming, and nutrition news from Ovenight News Digest:Science Saturday since Food Day 2014.  Appropriately enough for the theme of this blog, I begin with some post-apocalyptic food news from Michigan Tech.

Bacterial Slime: It's what's for Dinner (After a Catastrophic Crop Failure)
by Danny Messinger
November 19, 2014
If it were the end of the world as we know it, we’d be fine, according to Michigan Technological University professor Joshua Pearce.

“People have been doing catastrophic risk research for a while,” says Pearce. “But most of what’s been done is dark, apocalyptic and dismal. It hasn’t provided any real solutions.”

Even when looking at doomsday scenarios—like super-volcanoes, abrupt climate change and nuclear winter—society’s forecast isn’t horrific. In fact, Pearce says life will still have a sunny outlook. His research is outlined in a new book, Feeding Everyone No Matter What, out this week.
The good news is that we can feed everyone, as long as people plan ahead and are willing to eat bacteria, fungi, and insects for up to five years until what passes for normal agriculture returns.  The latter part I'm not as worried about as the first part.  I'm not as optimistic about people preparing.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the food news, presented in more-or-less reverse chronological order.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gas bounces off the floor


It's time to check my predictions from Local gas now $2.77.
Yesterday, the three stations down the street lowered their price one more notch to $2.77.  That didn't take long.  It's only a matter of time before the corner station joins them.  In fact, it may have done it this morning.
It had.  Sunday and Monday, all four stations in the neighborhood were selling regular for $2.77.
Prices look they'll continue to fall, as the national average is now $2.82 and falling.
Prices dropped spectacularly during the day yesterday, as the three stations down the block were selling regular for $2.65.  That's as low as I expected prices to go this year.  However, the corner station actually raised its price to $2.95.  It was almost enough to prompt me to post the jumping over the limbo bar graphic.  Then I saw that the next prediction might just have come true.
However, the floor may be in sight, as WTI is back above $75 and Brent has climbed over $80.  Let's see if they manage to stay above these levels of support on Monday
Last night, the three stations down the block raised their prices to $2.85, while the corner station remained at $2.95.  It looks like gas prices hit the floor and bounced, making the first half of my quoted passage appear good.  The second part of the prediction didn't hold up as well.  While Oil-Price.Net shows that WTI stayed above $75 and Brent remained above $80 on Monday, both fell on Tuesday, WTI to $74.09 and Brent to $78.33.  Back to $70 and $75 as support levels for now.

The local jump in prices reflected larger trends, as GasBuddy shows the national average bouncing off $2.80 a couple of days ago to $2.81 and the Detroit average briefly falling to $2.83 before sharply rising to $2.86 and leveling off.  No wonder the price jumped back up so sharply; the price environment would not support it.  The neighborhood price should be no lower than $2.75.  That's where I expect all the stations should be within a week, possibly even by next Monday, when the opportunity presented by Thanksgiving travel will be over.  As for $2.65, that might just be the low for the year.  Don't expect to see limbo kitty again until prices fall to within a dime of that price.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The law is an ass with music by Leonard Cohen


When Zimmerman was acquitted, I responded by posting A picture of hope and innocence from 40 years ago. In that entry, I mentioned what I was thinking of posting instead and when I would use it.
I'd much rather have this video as my comment on the Zimmerman trial than “The law is an ass with music by Leonard Cohen.”  I'll save that thought I left at Kunstler's blog for the next time the legal system disappoints me.
With the decision not to prosecute Darren Wilson, that next time has arrived.  I present "Everybody Knows."  The words are still by Leonard Cohen, even though the performance is by Concrete Blonde.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Professor Farnsworth approves of the University of Michigan's predictions


As if Good economic news for election day wasn't enough, the University of Michigan provided two more pieces of good news, or, rather, two forecasts of good news for business as usual, last week that I included in the tip jar for Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Philae discovers organics) on Daily Kos.

First, The US economy: Ready for takeoff on November 20, 2014.
ANN ARBOR—The U.S. economy will grow by more than 3 percent next year—its highest rate in 10 years, say economists at the University of Michigan.

Overall economic output growth (as measured by real Gross Domestic Product) will jump from 2.2 percent this year to 3.1 percent in 2015 and 3.3 percent in 2016.

"We expect that 2015 will be the year when U.S. economic growth will finally accelerate meaningfully," said U-M economist Daniil Manaenkov. "This year, severe winter weather joined the list of headwinds that have prevented U.S. economic growth from picking up. Even still, both private and total payroll job gains during 2014 are on track for their best performance since 1999. And going forward, strong GDP growth supports steady employment gains."
We should be so lucky.

The very next day, the prediction was for Michigan's economy: Onward and upward.
ANN ARBOR—After five years of steady job growth, the Michigan economy will continue to move forward at a solid clip over the next two years, say University of Michigan economists.

In their annual November forecast of the Michigan economy, George Fulton and colleagues Joan Crary and Donald Grimes say the state will add more than 132,000 jobs over the next two years.

All told, Michigan will have added nearly 463,000 jobs during the economic recovery from summer 2009 through the end of 2016—returning the job count to levels posted at the end of 2006 and a little more than halfway back to job levels posted in mid-2000.
Ah, yes, good news for business as usual.  Too bad these are not business as usual times.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Real-life 'Europa Report' from JPL


I concluded Local gas now $2.77 by telling my readers to "stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry."  I'll do something different tonight by connecting two videos from NASA/JPL that I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Philae discovers organics) with a science fiction movie, "Europa Report," a movie about the search for extraterrestrial life.  It turns out that NASA is interested in the moon for exactly the same reason.

For an overview, watch Europa: Ocean World.

Scientists believe there is an ocean hidden beneath the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. NASA-JPL astrobiologist Kevin Hand explains why scientists are so excited about the potential of this ice-covered world to answer one of humanity's most profound questions.
For a terrestrial analogue to the oceans of Europa, Extreme Shrimp May Hold Clues to Alien Life.

This extreme oasis of life deep in the Caribbean Sea may hold clues to life on other planetary bodies, including Jupiter's moon Europa.
Art imitating life imitating art.  Should humans actually ever get to Europa, or at least a robot explorer, may the results be as successful but less tragic than the finale of the film.

Speaking of finales of films about Europa, there is always this warning from the end of "2010."


Looks like both the real makers and fictional backers of "Europa Report" ignored this one.

Local gas now $2.77


Gas prices dropped to $2.79 only a few days ago.  Yesterday, the three stations down the street lowered their price one more notch to $2.77.  That didn't take long.  It's only a matter of time before the corner station joins them.  In fact, it may have done it this morning.

GasBuddy shows it was time for this move, as the Detroit average is currently $2.86.  A price drop was needed to keep the neighborhood outlets a dime below the metro average.

Prices look they'll continue to fall, as the national average is now $2.82 and falling.  However, the floor may be in sight, as WTI is back above $75 and Brent has climbed over $80.  Let's see if they manage to stay above these levels of support on Monday.

Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Warmest October on record for planet, fourth warmest for U.S.


I put the U.S.-China climate deal in context in a parenthetical statement and footnote.
Given what the rest of the climate news I included in last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos was like, it comes not a moment too soon...Stay tuned for an entry about these stories.
It's time for that entry.

The top story comes from Brian Kahn of Climate Central via LiveScience: Earth Had Warmest October on Record.
For the third month in a row, global temperatures reached record territory according to newly available data from NASA. And if one global temperature record isn’t enough, the Japanese Meteorological Agency also provided new data on Friday that showed the warmest October on record.

Data from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) show this October was 1.4°F above the 1951-1980 average they use as their baseline. That didn’t set a monthly mark, as did August and September, but rather tied 2005 as the warmest October since 1880. That keeps 2014 on track to be the hottest year on record.

While individual hot years or months don’t necessarily stand out, it’s notable that all 10 of the warmest years on record have all come since 1998, one of the clearest signs that the climate is warming due in large part to greenhouse gas emissions.
As if that wasn't enough, Kahn of Climate Central also told his readers in LiveScience to Feel the Heat: Fourth-Warmest October for U.S..
It might be chilly (OK, downright Arctic) in the middle third of the U.S. these days, but if you live there, you can warm yourself with memories of October. According to new data released Thursday, October wasn’t just a little warm, it was the fourth-warmest October for the lower 48 on record and not a single state recorded below normal temperatures.

In what’s been the year of the great weather schism, October showed reconciliation is possible. Warm weather that has been the hallmark of the West this year was also seen spreading across the South and Northeast. The only spot with near-normal temperatures was the Upper Midwest, though near normal probably sounds downright balmy to folks in Detroit who just weathered overnight lows of minus-14°F.

37 of the contiguous 48 states experiencing above-normal temperatures, that put the national average temperature 3°F above normal. That makes it the fourth warmest among the past 120 Octobers according to the new data from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Not a single state saw below normal temperatures, the first time that’s happened since July 2013.
If it hadn't been for Philae landing on a comet, these would have been the top stories last Saturday.

Follow over the jump for more of last week's climate stories.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Election post-mortem, a top comment


When I posted the following as the tip jar to Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Philae lands on comet), I didn't do anything different from all the rest of the tip jars that became election news entries here.  This time, it got recognized in Top Comments: New Jaguar Cubs Edition over at Daily Kos.
This diary-worthy personalized tip jar by Neon Vincent from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Philae lands on comet). That's one amazing tip jar and believe it to be the very first Tip Jar to make a Top Comment.
Honestly, it was nothing special, but I'll take the praise.

Follow over the jump for the three news items I on a common theme that I strung together to make the first tip jar to be recognized as a top comment at Daily Kos.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gas prices drop to $2.79


In Gas prices and mileage down, shopping up, I posted Professor Farnsworth to mark that the corner station had matched all the rest in the neighborhood at $3.85.  Also, the KCRA video in that entry forecast that prices would continue to drop.  Yesterday, all four outlets hit a new low in the history of this blog, $2.79.  Time for the limbo kitty to return.

Follow over the jump for what the local price environment and commodities futures say about current and future prices.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Polar vortex and the economy


With the return of cold weather this week, it's time to follow up on Weather and the economy for February 2014 with an article from Northern Illinois University that I included in last Saturday's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Philae lands on comet) on Daily Kos.

Sucked into the polar vortex
NIU analysis of last winter shows widespread impacts of bitter cold
November 13, 2014
With the unseasonably frigid air this week, memories resurfaced of last winter’s biting cold, brought on by the dreaded polar vortex.

But as NIU climatologist David Changnon points out, it’s not simply the cold that makes us miserable.

Changnon, who has been studying the impacts of last winter for an upcoming publication, can describe the countless ways in which the winter hurt, ranging from U.S. flight delays and Great Lakes shipping slowdowns to a plethora of potholes and water main breaks.

It all amounted to an economic punch in the nose.

“For a national economy still recovering from the damaging recession of 2008, last winter helped to create a significant setback,” says Changnon, a Board of Trustees Professor from NIU’s Department of Geography.

“Economists reported that half of the economic slowdown last winter was due to the bad weather conditions. For example, Ford attributed $100 million in losses to the winter. Because more people stayed inside due to the extremely cold conditions and reduced their spending, the national GNP shrank at an annual rate of 2.1 percent from January to March.”
That was last winter.  What about the current cold snap, which sent the thermometer in the new car down to 16F on the drive home?
Changnon says the impact of the November 2014 polar vortex should be minimal, because it’s not occurring in the heart of winter. It’s unclear whether it is a predictor of the winter to come.

“This may be the only major polar vortex event of the entire cold season,” Changnon said. “Since the complex factors that create such a scenario can change independent of one another and at different time scales, it is just hard to say.

“However, one of the main causes for last year’s frequent occurrence of the polar vortex, a large body of ocean with above average sea-surface water temperatures in the north Pacific, still exists. So many long-range winter forecasters feel like the probabilities are weighted toward a number of polar vortex events this cold season. It might not be as extreme as last year, but we might see more of the polar vortex than we typically experience.”
Ugh, brr.